Created by the U.S. Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792, the United States Mint was originally a section of the Department of State. It designs, manufactures and produces all circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as marketing special coinage. It is by far the world’s largest Mint, operating coining facilities in four locations.
The U.S. Mint’s headquarters are in Washington D.C., although this is not a coin producing facility. The Mint is also in charge of a bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky which is responsible for storage of the United States and other countries’ gold and silver bullion reserves.
History of the United States Mint
The U.S. Mint became an independent agency in 1799, converting precious metals into standard coinage for anyone’s account and charging only the refining costs. The Mint became part of the Department of the Treasury under the Coinage Act of 1873, and it was placed under the patronage of the Treasurer of the United States in 1981.
The Mint’s largest facility is the Philadelphia Mint. The modern facility opened in 1969, and it is the fourth Philadelphia Mint. The first facility was founded in 1792, when Philadelphia was still the U.S. capital, in a building known as “Ye Olde Mint”; it began operation in 1793.Until 1968, the Philadelphia Mint was responsible for nearly all official proof coinage. Philadelphia is also the site of master die production for U.S. coinage, and the engraving and design departments of the Mint.
Before 1880, coins minted at Philadelphia bore no mint mark. In 1880, the P mint mark was added to all U.S. coinage except for the cent. With the opening of branch mints there was need for mint marks, an identifying feature on the coins indicating their origin. The first of these branch mints were in Charlotte, North Carolina (1838-1861), Dahlonega, Georgia (1838–1861), and New Orleans, Louisiana (1838–1909). Official Mint branches were once also located in Carson City, Nevada, Washington, D.C., and in Manila, since 1920. The Philippines was then a U.S. colony and the Manila Mint is still the only U.S. mint established outside the continental U.S.; it closed down in 1941.
US Mint Marks
The Denver branch began in 1863 as the local assay, just five years after gold was discovered in the area, and in 1906 the Mint opened its new Denver branch. Denver uses a D mint mark and strikes coinage only for circulation.
The San Francisco branch opened in 1854 to serve the goldfields of the California Gold Rush. In 1968, it took over most proof-coinage production from Philadelphia, and since 1975 it has been used solely for proof coinage; ituses an S mint mark.
The West Point branch is the newest mint facility, gaining official status as a branch mint in 1988.West Point has struck a great deal of commemorative and proof coinage bearing the W mint mark. It is now the United States production facility for gold, silver and platinum American Eagle coins.
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